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Page 38
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Jimmy Mack

By Richard Wells

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"Jimmy, Jimmy, oh Jimmy Mack, when are you comin' back? Oh, Jimmy..."

—Martha & the Vandellas

Jimmy Mack, our infantry squad leader, was a short, heavy-set, black guy with a baby-face, and absolutely no charm. Jimmy Mack was a corporal and a lifer bucking for his third stripe before he rotated to Nam. We were a hash-smoking, beer-drinking, slacker outfit enjoying easy German duty, and resented the ambition that got worked out on our time. No one had been fragged in Germany, but Jimmy Mack was a prime candidate.

We were in Hohenfels doing our winter field maneuvers, and were out on a live-fire exercise. Our squad was working its way through a wooded area, on the look-out for silhouettes to blow to smithereens. Jimmy didn't have us in control, and we were moving around willy-nilly, squeezing off rounds as the spirit took us. I was in the middle of the squad, on my knees, rifle to shoulder, trying to sight through the other guys, when, lo-and-behold, there was Jimmy Mack not ten feet in front of me, right in my line of fire, and I had a bead on the back of his little, lifer head.

Oh, those relativity blues as time stretched out, and I ran through all reasons why Jimmy Mack should or shouldn't get a one-way ticket home. I eased my finger off the trigger. I committed no act of murder. Jimmy Mack lived another day.

A couple of months later, after Corporal Jimmy Mack got his much wished for transfer to Nam, word got back to us that Sergeant Jimmy Mack was no longer of this world. I guess he had a ticket, — I drew it, and passed, but it got cashed in anyway.

Richard Wells is a community organizer and poet who lives in Seattle, WA, with his wife Reggie, his mother-in-law Ruth, and their good dog Sam. He served from 1966-1969, and thanks his lucky stars he never saw combat.

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